The rise of the TFC

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The rise of the TFC

Toronto Sports Fans will always remember Wednesday, November 30th, 2016. Some fans may not remember the date, however, the event that night will still be remembered in Toronto sports fans' hearts. Why? They will always remember where they were when the Toronto Football Club - Toronto FC for the lay person - became the first-ever Canadian team to reach the MLS Finals. 

 On that rainy night, TFC were competing in their second leg at home against fellow Canadian club, the Montreal Impact. TFC were Down 3-2 on aggregate and Toronto FC wanted a highly complex 1-0 or 2-1 victory. Yet, Toronto FC and 401 Derby rivals Montreal Impact ( the name derived from Highway 401 that connects both cities) had a classic. This turned into a back and forth shootout. When the dust settled, TFC emerged the victors, winning 5-2 in extra time and 7-5 on aggregate, the fans were absolutely over the moon.

The reason why it is so big is because this team was not some powerhouse that could not get over the hump, Toronto FC for much of its life were losers. TFC were known as the franchise that could not do anything right to create a better product on the field. Granted, some of it was bad luck, however, it was still tough to see. To understand the former ineptitude of this franchise, one has to take a look at the history of TFC.

The Toronto FC was an expansion club created in 2005 by MLSE. MLSE, also known as Maple Leafs Sports Entertainment, paid $10 million for the expansion fee of the club; remember that number because we will get to that. Fans were excited about a soccer team. After all, Toronto is a very multicultural city that features many cultures who have rich soccer histories. Fans came out in droves to see the newly formed Toronto FC Reds. However, the team was obviously not very good. In 2007, Toronto FC’s first season, the team was 6-17-7. 

Things would get worse before they got better. The Reds finished in last place the season after, despite hosting the MLS All-Star game. The one thing that was apparent was the team was unfortunately not very stable. Many managers and general managers came into TFC with the hopes of fixing the club, but many were chewed up and spit out. However, the club managed to find consistency in one thing and that was its fan base. The fans came out in numbers, despite their team never making the playoffs in their history before 2015. 

It was an oddity to see how fans still came out to support their team. Perhaps it was the selling of hope? Perhaps it is the love of the game? One cannot deny that MLSE was blessed with loyal Toronto FC fans, who some even made their own club. This club is referred to as the Red Patch Boys, who kept Toronto FC morale with the fans high. Still, the pain of losing was too much to bear. Even Jermain Defoe and his ‘bloody big deal’ could not fix it. 

Finally, the team found their franchise player in Sebastian Giovinco. The plucky little Italian international came in and fixed the club. 2015 was Giovinco’s first season with the club and he changed so much. Along with players of high pedigree like Bradley, Altidore, and many others, TFC got turned around. In 2015, Toronto FC went to the playoffs for the first time ever. Giovinco was named the MLS MVP, MLS Golden boot winner, and has the single-season record for scoring 20 goals and 15 assists in one season. Unfortunately, this success was cut short in 2015 as Toronto FC were knocked out, of the knockout stage. Didier Drogba and the Montreal Impact beat TFC 3-0.

2016 was a clearly a different story, Giovinco was still extremely productive, TFC was way better defensively and offensively there was more depth. Now TFC finally getting one over on their 401 derby rivals when it mattered most, TFC are close to achieving MLS’s greatest prize, the MLS Cup. Now TFC will host the MLS Finals against the Seattle Sounders in front of what is expected to be a ruckus crowd. 

Side note: one of my favourite players from the TFC dog days, Stefan Frei is now on the Sounders.

TFC is thriving both on the field and as a business. The club expansion fee was 10 million, and according to Forbes, TFC now is worth $175 million. As impressive as this is, it speaks to the business savvy of MLSE and the growth of the MLS. Fans do not care as much about that as they do about the product on the field. For years the fans had experienced the heartache of not having a winner. For years fans had to experience the pain of coming out in numbers, just to see a bad product on the pitch. Now, the pain is over. This Saturday, win or lose, the Toronto FC can honestly say that they have turned over a new leaf.

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[WATCH] Fan rush field, bows down in front of Messi

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[WATCH] Fan rush field, bows down in front of Messi

Shoutout to Lionel Messi for signing the young man's jersey. In most situations like this, the security would have tackled the fan on the field before he could even speak to the player. 

James Rodriguez of Columbia also was rushed by fans, but two young ladies. Both of the young ladies had enough time to greet Rodriguez and hug him before security escorted them off the field. I'm not sure if this happens a lot in International soccer but I wouldn't be surprised if this is the culture of the sport. 

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DC United scores 2 against rivals, New York Red Bulls

It’s been a rainy two weeks in the DMV region but the sky cleared just hours before the DC United kickoff against rivals New York Red Bulls, giving 19,632 fans a chance to enjoy. 

The United were taking on their second New York team in seven days, this time coming out victors with a 2-0 win, thanks to some solid ball movement and even better defense. 

“I think you saw our team use real emotion” Ben Olsen said, in his 6th season as the coach of the Black-n-Red. “You’re pleased but the message is this is what we can do. We can’t wait for it to be the Red Bulls or when it’s a packed house. This has to be the standard.” 

Like most of the Eastern conference, United has been inconsistent. The win gives the Black-n-Red their 3rd win of the season, moving them ahead of the Red Bulls 6th in the Eastern Conference. Only ten games into the season, the Eastern Conference has been a log jam but not a good one. All ten teams are within 3 games of each other, Montreal leading with 15 points and 4 wins. 

It’s been a lot of ties”, Ben Olsen said about the Eastern Conference. “Three points goes a long way right now but it’s such a long season to try to size up these teams right now. It’s still early and we’ll focus on ourselves moving forward,”

Alvaro Saborio scored the first goal for the Black-n-Red (19’) receiving an assist from Marcelo Sarvas. Patrick Nyarko was also credited with the assist, setting up the play perfectly, dropping it down to Sarvas on a give and go play. 

“I made eye contact with Marcelo and he knew exactly where to place the ball,” Nyarko said about the first goal. “It was all him, he made that eye contact and knew exactly where to go.” 

The Black-n-Red were able to set up shop in front of the Red Bulls goal seemingly all night. The Red Bulls struggle to apply pressure on United, and it allowed for them to create opportunities in front of goal all night. 

“The gameplan was to jump on them as quick as possible and get the midfield three off the ball as much as possible and I think we stuck to the gameplan. 

Nyarko scored the Black-n-Red second goal, dimed by Lamar Neagle. 

Defensively, the Black-n-Red were the complete opposite of the Red Bulls. Goalie, Travis Worra, was on fire, finishing the game with five saves. Worra had four great saves in the first half, two of which that were back-to-back shots right in front of him. The back line of the United also didn’t have the best night but it was enough to limit the Red Bulls to only 5 shots in the first half. 

The Red Bulls won’t have an opportunity to avenge this loss until late August. The Black-N-Red will go on a two-game road trip to take on the Philadelphia Union and Sporting KC. For now, Olsen wants his boys to enjoy the weekend.

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Why The Special One Was Sacked

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Why The Special One Was Sacked

Whether it was his fault or not Jose Mourinho needs to get fired; however, there are so many questions. How could a Mourinho coached team be so bad? Whose fault is it? Here is my best breakdown to answer why.

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CONCACAF GOLD CUP FINAL

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CONCACAF GOLD CUP FINAL

In a year full of great moments, Fan-I Sports has hit yet another pinnacle. James Sneed once again represented the Fan-I Gang, this time on the field at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup Finals. If you are new to “Money Shot Sneed” artistry, go take a look at his previous work from the Gold Cup Quarterfinals

Mexico won their 7th Gold Cup, a CONCACAF record, defeating Jamaica 3-1 in front of more than 68,000 fans. 

Jamaica came out gunning early, creating numerous oppurtunities to score, but nothing came out of it. For the first 20 minutes of the game, Jamaica was the agressor, leaving Mexico no choice to but to weather the storm. After a beautiful give-n-go by Jamaica created a wide open alley and cross oppurtunity, Miguel Herrera calmly gestured to his Mexico squad to calm down, and that they did. 

Once Mexico slowed the game down and took control of the pitch, they began their attack. Captain, Andres Guardado, scored Mexico's first goal in the 31st minute, which sent the Mexico faithful into a frenzy. The atmosphere in this game, which you can see in James Sneed's Photos, was wilder than any event I have ever attended. 

On the field, players were very chippy, a total of 3 yellow cards were issued in the first half, while in the stands, Jamaica and Mexico fans passionately rooted for their squad. 

Mexico fans cheered so passionatley that after every goal, they threw their beverages in the air, showering anyone that was near them.

Mexico will now face U.S Men's National Team this October, in a 1-game playoff to determine who will represent the CONCACAF in the 2017 Confederation Cup. The game is expected to be played on U.S soil inside the prestigious Rose Bowl which can hold 100,000. At the Gold Cup Final, the Mexico's  fans out-numbered Jamiaca 3-to-1 and I expect the same come October. 

Unfortunately, Mexico will be without their leader, Herrera, who was fired Tuesday after a altercation he had with a Mexican journalist Monday night. Herrera was hired to be coach of the Mexican National Team in 2013 and led them to the country's best finish in the 2014 World Cup since 1986. 

The reporter who Herrera alledgely punched, was a major critic of the coach, and according to other outlets, fans were also critical of Herrera because of the team's performance. When Herrera walked into Lincoln Financial Stadium though, the fans gave him a great ovation, so I don't understand those claims. 

It will be intersting to see how the team will move on after such a drastic change less than 24 hours after winning a major title. 

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CONCACAF GOLD CUP

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CONCACAF GOLD CUP

Fan-I Sports has once again rose to a new plateau, covering our first International event. The CONCACAF soccer organization brought their Gold Cup tournament to our great city of Baltimore, and we were lucky enough to earn a spot on the field. Freelance Photographer, James Sneed ,represented Fan-I Sports and snapped some great shots from field level at M&T Bank Stadium. Scroll through the gallery to see the work of JsneedPhotos. 

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Most Dominant Athlete

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Most Dominant Athlete

The topic of who is the most dominant athlete is a reoccurring discussion between sports fans but what does one consider dominant?

LeBron has been the best basketball player in the world since 2009, but has a 2-4 record the NBA Finals. Floyd Mayweather is 49-0, and has dominated the scorecards but not his opponents, only 26 knockouts in his career. Tiger Woods seems to be passed his time, last victory in a major coming in 2008 at the U.S Open.

So who is the most dominant athlete in the world? Just know my pick is not a male.

Ms. Serena Williams won her 4th straight major and 6th Wimbledon title Saturday morning, after she defeated Garbine Muguruza 6-4 6-4. This is the second time in Serena's career that she has won all 4 majors consecutively, repeating her accomplishment from 2002-2003.

I’ve been trying to win four in a row for 12 years, and it hasn’t happened. I’ve had a couple injuries. You know, it’s been an up-and-down process, I honestly can’t say that last year or two years ago or even five years ago I would have thought that I would have won four in a row.
— Serena Williams via ESPN.com

Serena is the oldest women to win a grand slam title in the Open Era (started in 1968), turning 34 September 20th. It's hard to say that she has lost a step since completing the Serena Slam when she was 21 because she looks to be better and more feared at the prime age of 34.

Serena is currently on a 28-match win streak in Majors, only 6 away from surpassing her personal best of 33 back in 02-03. Her last lost came against Alize Cornet (6-1, 3-6, 4-6) in her 3rd match of the 2014 Wimbledon. This year's Wimbledon victory is Serena's first since 2012 when she defeated Agnieszka Radwanska 6-1, 5-7, 6-2.

The 21-year old Muguruza, playing in her first Majors Finals, is now 3-1 against Serena. The young Spaniard gave Serena her most shocking lost in 2014, when she knocked out Serena in the 2nd round of the French Open. Even though she gave the young Mugurza praise, I'm sure Serena made sure that she proved to Muguruza that she is still the most feared athlete in the world.

Serena now looks to become the 4th woman to win all 4 Majors in a calendar year this upcoming August at the U.S Open. Steffi Graf, was the last women to do it in 1988, and if Serena can pull-off the calendar year Grand Slam, she will tie Steffi Graf for most Major wins with 22, along with having the most U.S Open titles in the Open Era, tied at 6 with Chris Evert.

Against top-ten ranked opponents, Serena is 353-94, 144-59 against #1 ranked opponents. She has a winning percentage against players like Martini Hingis (54% 13 matches), Venus Williams (57.6% 26 matches), Lindsay Davenport (71.4% 14 matches), Victoria Azarenka (85% 20 matches), and Maria Sharapova (90% 20 matches). (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Against top-ten ranked opponents, Serena is 353-94, 144-59 against #1 ranked opponents. She has a winning percentage against players like Martini Hingis (54% 13 matches), Venus Williams (57.6% 26 matches), Lindsay Davenport (71.4% 14 matches), Victoria Azarenka (85% 20 matches), and Maria Sharapova (90% 20 matches). (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

While other athletes seem to slow down as they get older Serena continues to get better. Her record in 2015 stands at 32-1, only loss coming against Petra Kvitova in the Madrid Open. Against Muguruza, she completed 12 aces in a row, which left the 21-year old stuck with no answers.

Since 1999, when she won her first Major and U.S Open title (first African-American to win U.S Open since Althea Gibson in 1959), Serena has been on a dominant streak. She is the only female tennis player with at least 6 Grand Slam titles in 3 different Majors, 6 Australian Opens, 6 U.S Opens, and 6 Wimbledon. How many other athletes can you say dominated their sports since the second season of their career?

The only person comparable to that is Tiger Woods, but Tiger has not been able to dominate since the late 2000s. Serena's longevity is reason why I would crown her as the most dominant athlete of this era of sports.

With no sign of slowing down, Serena is only 4 Grand Slam titles away from eclipsing Margeret Court for by a female tennis player.

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